Latest News: Technology |  Celebrity |  Movies |  Apple |  Cars |  Business |  Sports |  TV Shows |  Geek

Trending

Filed under: News

 

Detecting Water Vapor On A 'Hot Jupiter' Around Tau Bootis

Feb 27 2014, 2:51am CST | by

1 Updates
Detecting Water Vapor On A 'Hot Jupiter' Around Tau Bootis
 
 

YouTube Videos Comments

Full Story

Detecting Water Vapor On A 'Hot Jupiter' Around Tau Bootis

For the first time, a team of American astronomers has used near-infrared spectroscopy to directly detect water vapor in the atmosphere of a gas giant planet in close orbit around the bright star tau Bootis — one that according to Homer may have even led Odysseus home from Troy.

But not even Odysseus could have imagined that 21st century spectroscopy would be teasing data from the hellishly hot atmosphere of a 3.8 Jupiter-mass planet around a star only 50 light years from earth.

While water has been detected in the atmospheres of several extrasolar planets using other techniques, this detection via thermal emission, as reported in The Astrophysical Journal Letters enables astronomers to directly characterize the atmospheres of such “hot Jupiters,” or gas giant planets that orbit their host stars on astoundingly close orbits.

“This discovery of water on tau Bootis b is absolutely wonderful,” said longtime extrasolar planet hunter Geoff Marcy, an astronomer at the University of California at Berkeley, who along with astronomer Paul Butler, first discovered the planet in 1996.

And it’s all the more “incredible,” says Marcy, considering that only 18 years ago, he and colleagues still thought it “a miracle” to be able to indirectly detect any such extrasolar Jupiter-mass planets, much less study their atmospheres.

Penn State University astronomer Chad Bender, one of the paper’s co-authors, says this is the first time anyone has detected water in a non-transiting planet. That is, a planet having its atmosphere probed by the background glow from its parent star.

That’s important, says Bender, because the population of non-transiting extrasolar planets is much larger than those that from our line of sight appear to transit across the face of their parent stars.

In 2011, Bender and colleagues used the Keck II 10.2-meter telescope atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii to take spectra of the planet on five separate nights.

“We took blended spectra from both the star and the planet,” said Bender. “The trick was separating the chemical signatures in that spectra — the ones that belonged to the star and the ones that belonged to the planet.”

Because the planet is about 10,000 times fainter than the star, says Bender, the star’s light completely overwhelms the planet’s spectra. But he says the near infrared spectrum he and colleagues took was done at high resolution which enabled the team to detect several molecular lines of spectra; which, in this case, included water.

Bender stressed that the spectra they received was not from the planet’s albedo (or reflected light from its parent star), but rather light being generated from the planet’s atmospheric heat, since it orbits its parent star tau Bootis once every 3.3 days.

The hope is that astronomers will be able to use the same technique to take spectra of much cooler planets; ones that aren’t locked in such tight orbits around their parent stars.

But is it possible to really take spectra of much cooler planets; ones that aren’t locked in tight orbits around their parent stars?

“Observing earthlike planets in the habitable zone is going to be difficult because they are going to have atmospheres at earthlike temperatures,” said Bender. “That means the contrast between the planet and the star is really very extreme — something like ten orders of magnitude in difference.”

That, says Bender, will at least require the next generation of large telescopes, such as NASA’s scheduled James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) or Caltech’s Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), a planned ground-based behemoth.

Thus, although water appears to be ubiquitous, Benders admits the technology still has a long way to go before it will be sensitive to earths in a habitable zone, where liquid water would be present.

But as Marcy notes: “This discovery reminds us that hydrogen and oxygen are so abundant in the universe that H2O must be ubiquitous. Considering that water is the ‘sine qua non’ of life, this bodes well for the possibility of other critters that dream of galactic travel and exploration.”

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google +.

Source: Forbes

 

You Might Also Like

Updates


Sponsored Update


Advertisement


More From the Web

Shopping Deals

 
 
 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/31" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

 

Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Cleveland Browns Choose Brian Hoyer Over Johnny Manziel
Cleveland Browns Choose Brian Hoyer Over Johnny Manziel
The Cleveland Browns named Brian Hoyer their starting quarterback on Aug. 20. Rookie Johnny Manziel will be Hoyer's backup.
 
 
Adrianne Palicki Cast in &quot;Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.&quot;
Adrianne Palicki Cast in "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
Lucy Lawless also cast in role for the upcoming season.
 
 
Leo’s Fortune Game Review
Leo’s Fortune Game Review
The Leo’s Fortune game app is an exciting adventurous game which has become more famous because of its incredible graphics and story theme of the game. The game was launched earlier this year and several thousand users have already downloaded this game either on their mobile phones or their tablets.
 
 
iLands Game Review
iLands Game Review
The iLands is a creative game app released this year for Android mobile devices and tablets. Thousands of people have already downloaded this game in just a few months. The game is known to get the best of the creative abilities of the player. The game was first released for the Facebook users and later in a few months also got released for the Android devices. Further, the iLands game app is played with great zeal and zest on desktop through Facebook games.
 
 
 

About the Geek Mind

The “geek mind” is concerned with more than just the latest iPhone rumors, or which company will win the gaming console wars. I4U is concerned with more than just the latest photo shoot or other celebrity gossip.

The “geek mind” is concerned with life, in all its different forms and facets. The geek mind wants to know about societal and financial issues, both abroad and at home. If a Fortune 500 decides to raise their minimum wage, or any high priority news, the geek mind wants to know. The geek mind wants to know the top teams in the National Football League, or who’s likely to win the NBA Finals this coming year. The geek mind wants to know who the hottest new models are, or whether the newest blockbuster movie is worth seeing. The geek mind wants to know. The geek mind wants—needs—knowledge.

Read more about The Geek Mind.